A laughing toddler hanging on your leg as you stir. Brothers bickering within earshot. A baby bouncing on your hip as you flip bacon. It’s totally worth it to eat meals with your kids. But getting those meals on the table has its own set of challenges.
Here are our top tips when meal planning for kid friendly meals.
Plan for a meltdown
In the culinary world, the French have a practice called mise en place. This means “putting in place” or “everything in its place” and refers to getting all ingredients ready before cooking. This includes homemade relishes, sauces, and spice blends. Freshly chopped vegetables. And par-cooked meat and veggies.
Because the evening hours are often prime time for a baby to fuss or siblings to quarrel, plan for it. Get your mise en place on point. Choose meals that you can prepare for when the kids are at school or napping, so getting something on the table isn’t complicated. And do a happy dance when things run smoothly.
On the table in thirty
With kids, you may find that meal planning has never been more important. You can save time by quickly tossing sliced veggies into the oven. Reheating leftovers into something new. Setting a casserole to bake.
See if you can get food on the table in roughly thirty minutes. This may mean keeping a regular shopping list — and sticking to it. Or putting together a meal planning template, like soup on Tuesdays and pizza on Fridays.
Divide and conquer
There’s a reason why divided plates come in bright colors, festooned with cartoon characters. Kids love them. Roasted carrots swimming in a sauce with shredded beef may be completely unappetizing. While a stack of carrots, a dipable sauce, and a pile of beef is acceptable.
When you can, offer food in its deconstructed parts. And if you plan for meals that encourage your kids to choose their own garnishes — like a dollop of yogurt or slices of tomatoes — they’ll be more likely to enjoy their meal.
Use kitchen tools that do the work for you
The repetition of cutting sweet potatoes into long strips, blending soup in small batches, or standing over the stove while something cooks may feel like a chance to zen out — unless your littles are vying for attention too. Make life simpler for everyone by using time-saving kitchen tools.
- An immersion blender that you can pop into the soup pot for a quick puree
- A slow cooker, so you can set it and forget it like a boss
- A mandoline or spiralizer that makes the zoodles and swoodles for you
- Kitchen shears, because butchering a chicken is that much easier
Get your kids to do the work for you
Knives are sharp and you probably could work twice as fast — but that doesn’t mean that your little one shouldn’t help out in the kitchen. When you can, involve your kids. Ask them to measure and pour. Coach them while they slice. Hand over a spoon for some patient stirring. Chances are, your children will be more likely to eat the food that they had a hand in making. Beyond that, you have a chance to show them where food comes from.
Honor tiny tastebuds
The best kid friendly meals have flavor and use spices, but are not excessively spicy or salty. Children tend to acquire a preference for certain foods and flavors during their first years, but most will be unlikely to tolerate a high level of heat. It’s also completely normal for your kid to prefer cooked veggies over raw or veer away from light salad greens.
With that in mind, make food that you would eat. But go easy on the spices, use bitter ingredients sparingly, and include a staple starch that you know your kid loves.
If you feel like offering classic kid favorites, make a good-for-you version. Like these homemade tater tots and coconut chicken nuggets.
How do you plan for kid friendly meals?
Let us know! #realplans